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7 Steps to Handling a Business Crisis Like a Crisis Professional

Posted by Allison Chase on September 09, 2016

Today’s guest post comes from George Loan Baker, Partner and Executive Leadership Coach at innerOvation.

You get into work on a Monday morning after a great weekend in mountains camping with your family totally “off the grid.”

You’re set for a great day. Then you open your email and see an urgent message from your boss that your team screwed up with a client in a major way over the weekend. He wants to see you before 10 am in his office.

You pride yourself on great pre-planning and execution. Crisis management is not your strong suit.

What do you do?

I’m a former fire chief of twenty years turned executive leadership expert.

I found that a simple, 7-step process, that fire fighting professionals use all over the country, has been a hit with my business clients in helping manage crises.

It’s called “S SLEEVO.”

Here’s how it works:

1 – Size up

First, consider the actual current conditions. Get an honest perspective. What damage has been done? What else is going on in the company that might affect the outcome? What action can begin to change the results from the weekend for the better?

2 – Sufficient Help

What resources—people and equipment—do you need to address the issue properly? Do you what you need? Is your team able to take the actions needed to stop the bleeding and then over-deliver in a way that can satisfy the client and your boss? Who else do you need to help? What is the contingency if the issue is bigger than identified in the size up? How can you get what you need?

3 – Life Safety

What are the considerations for the safety and wellbeing of your customers, employees and your business? What safeguards are in place?

4 – Exposures

What if this fire spreads? Where could this issue end up? Is this issue from the weekend going to affect other clients?

5 – Extinguish

Put the fire out. In other words, gather what you have and know from steps one through four and deliver. Begin to extinguish the fire before you meet your boss and then let him know your plan for dousing the conflagration and follow up.

6 – Ventilate

Ventilate is the about removing of smoke, heat, and lethal gases. It’s about clearing out the aftermath of the crisis. What is your plan to deal with the toxic/interpersonal issues that arise? How do you take ownership and not personalize it? How do you move on?

7 – Overhaul

Make sure the fire is out, locating and snuffing out every last ember in order to prevent rekindling. Is the job done? Did you fully deliver what was promised? Has an evaluation taken place and processes put into place to prevent a future issue. Have the changes been communicated to all stakeholders? You don’t want to walk into the same situation next Monday morning.

And that’s S SLEEVO. It’s so effective that many new chiefs carry a laminated card with the acronym on it, so as to not miss any considerations.

Once you have the process down, it can be done in seconds. And it doesn’t apply only to large emergencies. It has applications to smaller sparks as well. Consider how this can be applied when an employee rushes into your office with a burning issue.